In August, Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez convened beneath the Flying Blue Buffalo for a special lecture titled Entre Cíbolos Criados: Creativity, Consciousness and Community.
In his moving speech, Dr. Rael-Gálvez discusses the three concepts that have long defined his work and the history of Indigenous slavery.
His lecture is sampled below, and can be read in full at flyingbluebuffalo.com
It is a tremendous honor to be able to participate in this opening by the amazing artist, Armond Lara – whose memorial is… breath-taking, but it gives breath as well. This thoughtful remembering is a project — that through creativity raises consciousness — and in the end, is inspired by the promise of strengthening community.
Here in this sovereign landscape, Pueblo elders have said that, “wherever we go, we leave our breath behind us” — an invocation recognizing those who came before us and how their life force remains with us long after they have gone. In recognizing this life force, we not only illuminate all of the ancestors who lived in this place, but point especially to the life of those living now in the present, as well as to those generations that will follow, inheriting what we leave behind in the future.
In time, drawn to the subject of enslaved Indians as a young scholar, I would immerse myself as a historian in countless archives, reading between the lines of documents, tracing my finger across maps and looking closer at photographs, all complemented by my work as an anthropologist, engaged in many hundreds of conversations set with bread at kitchen tables, revealed upon a walk through alfalfa fields, and shared across miles by telephone and electronic correspondence.
Taking those experiences, connecting them and eventually centering them, the story grew like a forest, one that eventually became a manuscript defended by me to hold a doctoral credential. However, believing that scholarship is most valuable when grounded and applied in the world, I left academia, and yet through my role as a public historian and anthropologist, indeed, because of it, the story only deepened further, to this day.
So when I talk about consciousness now, I am not only referring to the work I have done as a scholar and public historian for over two decades, but a commitment to raising consciousness on the ground, locally, in the minds of people in our region and nation, particularly in the minds of those who have not yet recognized that this story, however painful, is also one of complex beauty. This is no easy task.
The eyes of all of the descendants of those indigenous ancestors continue to awaken the possibility of remembering with each new birth of a New Mexican. Telling this Story—in whatever form that telling comes— is about how individual and collective lives are remembered, how a community takes the memories, stories and traditions of what has been passed down from one generation to the next, and how it reimagines itself, now in the present and into the future. We are the herd of buffalo that rises.
Dr. Rael-Gálvez holds a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he completed an award-winning dissertation, “Identifying Captivity and Capturing Identity: Narratives of American Indian Slavery.” Formerly the State Historian of New Mexico, Executive Director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center, and Senior Vice President at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Dr. Rael-Gálvez currently is a writer and the founding principal of Creative Strategies 360°.